WPFC offers an excellent Basic Seminar on Bowen Family Systems Theory. It’s an intensive course, and among many other things, it helped me think about how to observe emotional process in my family. In fact, I wanted more! Fortunately, there is also an opportunity to continue in a less intensive way: The Continued Study Seminar. It is so good that I’ve been in it for the past 10 years.
The general goal of students in the CS Seminar is to become more objective about the functioning of self and family. Before the CS Seminar, I really had a vague, intellectual idea about what being more objective meant and about how I function in relationships. Now, I am more aware about the fact that some intense feelings I experience are my emotional reactivity to family members or others in my emotional field. That is especially noticeable when a hot issue “lights up” imbedded emotional triangles. With this awareness comes the ability to identify automatic responses and to delay them. The result is calming down and allowing time for a more thought-based response. The CS Seminar is very useful in providing frequent reminders of how BT can provide a frame of reference for how relationships work.
How did my self-awareness increase?
Early on, one of the CS Seminar guidelines suggested by Cindy Larkby, the instructor, was to keep track of where one’s thinking is focused: on oneself, or on others. From my own observations, added to those of BT presenters, I have come to believe that humans and other animals are evolutionarily wired to look at someone else as the source of one’s own problems. If that is indeed so, then it is difficult and counterintuitive to look at the role self pays in significant relationships. It is difficult to avoid blaming others and blaming self, and I do not claim to have acquired such a skill. What I claim is that now there are times when I can avoid that automatic response when under stress. Better thinking gets better outcomes. During preparation for repeated CS Seminar presentations over the years, when my reactivity got in the way of a thinking response, I eventually could more readily ask the questions:
What am I contributing to these relationship struggles?
What would better functioning on my part look like?
The seminar structure provides a way to answer those questions. The instructor’s feedback and the other participants’ feedback after each presentation are very useful in developing more objectivity. It’s a lot easier to observe emotional process in someone else’s family than it is in one’s own. When the family belief system is examined to determine what is factual, that is a step toward more objectivity. Now, I pay much more attention to see if there is a contrast between what I say I do, and what I actually do. That is also true when I observe others.
Best of all, I find that even a little more objectivity has helped me make changes in my behavior.